I could not let this pass without comment.
Douglas Fraser, innocently enough, commented on the motivations behind those criticising the BBC:
Naturally, a great many Scottish Independence supporters responded along the lines of “I’d like a public broadcaster that actually responded to Freedom of Information requests, that didn’t – through ignorance or intent, the result is the same – disproportionately support or vilify one party or political cause over another, and that treated our country like it was actually a country rather than a region of England.” (Some were more polite, others… less so)
Mr Fraser’s response, as quoted earlier, was breathtaking.
Let’s take this at face value. The BBC is, by its very existence, Scotland’s public broadcaster. It is literally the BBC’s job to “support Scottish culture, language, writing, drama, Gaelic, new, trad + orchestral music, understanding of Scots history, government, politics, identity. If the BBC wasn’t doing all this, then there would be something wrong. Instead, Mr Fraser speaks as if this was all from the goodness of Auntie’s dear little heart – that we didn’t have to be so generous to those uppity Scots with their strange dialects and cuisine and culture and politics, but because we’re so good and wonderful, we did it anyway. Does Mr Fraser want us to give the BBC a cookie for doing its job?
But it’s worse than that, because as Scotland’s public broadcaster, it is the only major outlet for Scotland’s cultural expression outside of independent, non-public broadcasters like ITV (whose Scottish channel doesn’t even broadcast in all parts of Scotland). Indeed, considering the BBC works for the entirety of the United Kingdom, it could easily be argued that Scotland doesn’t have a public broadcaster of its own – we must rely on the generosity of the UK-wide broadcaster to treat us as a country rather than 8.7% of a larger state. The BBC is the only game in town. We can’t point to any organisation, “in the past 50 or so years,” which has done more for the BBC because, in terms of media representation, no other organisation is allowed to do more than the BBC.
But it’s yet worse than that, because as part of a UK public broadcaster, the buck must ultimately always stop at the UK level – meaning that all that support for Scottish culture, language, writing etc is ultimately at the mercy of whatever the UK wants. You’re talking with someone who remembers “except for viewers in Scotland“: who made the decision whether something would be for Scotland, or for the whole UK? Because something tells me that if the wishes of Scotland conflicted with the wishes of the rest of the UK, there would only be one winner.
But it’s so much worse than even that, because if Scots want to watch live television, they have no choice but to support the BBC or face the wrath of the TV License Office – and even if they opt out of the license fee, they will be sent intimidating letters, have their doors knocked by enforcers, watched and surveyed and harassed to make sure they’re adhering to the law. For £145 a year – £145 increasing numbers of households simply cannot afford. People are starving and freezing and dying, and those who deign food and heat and life more important than telly are being harangued and browbeaten by your precious corporation into paying their tax – and you dare talk about the impact changes to the BBC would have on you and your colleagues?
Douglas Fraser is asking Scottish viewers dissatisfied with the BBC to point to a competitor that does not and cannot exist, compare it with an organisation whose entire purpose is to represent the people of Scotland, which happens to enforce financial contribution to its operation with no choice in the matter to Scots who want to watch live television… and is asking us to thank us for their beneficence.
Mr Fraser, with the greatest will in the world – get real.